tv [untitled] May 6, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
know, what's going on at the train station, because to see that colored sign over the door from a public highway is shocking to people today. we have to remember, i think, that that's what life was like for the better part of the 20th century here in the american south. one of the unique opportunities at montpelier is our ability to tell not just the story of american history, but really the story of african-american history from beginning to present, the first people that settled at montpelier were african-american slaves, ambrose madison sent here in 1723. we can tell the story of an african-american life through slavery through the civil war, and we have the civil war history at montpelier, and then we have the reconstruction era history at montpelier, we can tell the story of the gilmore family and their progress
through the late 19th century into the 20th century. the train station here tells the story of the jim crow era, which takes us through the 1960s, and at the end of the 20th century, montpelier becomes a museum that is open to the public, and this is the first time the late 1980s are really the first time in american history when both black and white americans can walk through the home of this past president. we, the people, had come to include all americans. >> this program is one of a series featuring james madison's montpelier. you can view all american history tv programs online at cspan.org/history. this discussion is from a conference on the presidency and civil rights held at the john f.
kennedy presidential library and museum. among the topics, fdr's world war ii internment of japanese-americans. president truman's desegregation of the u.s. armed forces and president eisenhower's five appointments to the u.s. supreme court of justices in favor of desegregation. we also hear about atemptsz on first lady eleanor roosevelt's life because of her efforts toward integration and about the impact of return african-american world war ii veterans on civil rights activism. this program is about one hour, 20 minutes. >> good afternoon. i'm david ferrio, the archivist of the united states and it's a pleasure to welcome you to this conference on american presidency and civil rights. the national archives is charged with preserving access to our nation's most important documents, the records we safeguard are part of the backbone of our democracy, important pieces of the story of
the american journey. they contain accounts of heroism and tragedy, of moments of pride and moments of shame, of sacrifices that men and women have made to defend our country, and to extend basic human rights to all of our citizens. this library and 12 others like it around the country contain the records of the presidents dating back to 1929, when herbert hoover lived in the white house. they're part of the national archives' vast holdings that tell the story of america. our holdings also include the charters of freedom, the declaration of independence, the constitution, and the bill of rights, which are located in the rotunda of our main building in washington, but we also have 12 billion more pages of documents, not to mention millions of photographs, charts, and billions of electronic records and artifacts that are part of the national archives. you don't have to read and study many of them to realize that the
story of america is a story of people struggling to achieve the rights promised in the charters of freedom or protesting because they have denied those rights. it is of course the constitution and amendments that presidents have used to underpin major actions and upon which the united states supreme court has based so many landmark decisions involving civil and human rights. the list is daunting and franklin roosevelt outlawed discrimination through the fair and practice committee. harry truman ordered an end to segregation in 1948. dwight eisenhower sent army troops to little rock so african-american students could enroll. john kennedy put the effort behind the effort to integrate the university of alabama. johnson pushed congress relentlessly to enact the civil rights act of 1964 and the voting rights act of 1965.
this city has played a pivotal role in the struggle as the cradle of our dmomcy is one of the centrist abolitionist movement and more recently at the heart of the debate how best to desegregate public schools to comply with the historic 1954 supreme court decision in brown versus the topeka board of education. these struggles for civil rights have not always been easy. when they occur they often revolve around the constitution, the rights that define us as a nation have always been secured. the first ten amendments to the constitution are known as the bill of rights. they spell out the personal rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to every american, including freedom of speech, religion and the press, the right to petition the government, the right to bear arms and the right to due process of law. most of the later amendments sought to explicitly extend
rights granted in the constitution itself, to individuals who had been excluded from full participation in our democracy, when the constitution was adopted in 1787. three post civil war amendments abolished slavery, make former slaves u.s. citizens and grant them the right to vote. the 19th amendment grants women the right to vote and another grants access to the ballot by 18-year-olds. we may view these founding documents as timeless but the government they envisioned and that we inherited was not inevitable. it required the devotion of citizens like you and me, a national respect for the rule of law and the wise exercise of power by our elected leaders, who are held accountable by we the people. as i mentioned before, the holdings of the national archives chronicle our nation's efforts to live out the ideals expressed in the charters of freedom. the document president abraham lincoln's war time proclamation
that emancipated the slaves to the signing a century later of the civil rights act of 1964 that sought to end legalized segregation. many of our documents are housed throughout the country. in this building in one of our regional archives in waltham and in 42 libraries and regional archives around the country. understanding the stories surrounding the actions by our president helps us give context to martin luther king's observation that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. it bends not on its own, dr. king said, but because etach of us in our own way puts our hand on that arc and bend it in the direction of a more just world. i'm proud the kennedy library is hosting today's conference and recognize and thank all of those who have put together this terrific program. i'm not allowed to say this in public especially in the presence of my friends from the
fdr library, but this is, having grown up in beverly, massachusetts, this is my favorite presidential library. [ laughter ] [ applause ] i cannot think of a better day or a better place to mark president's day. i want to personally thank all of our speaker, many who traveled far including one from south africa to be with us here for these proceedings and a special welcome to those of us watching around the world on c-span. i'm especially pleased to see so many young people and students in the audience today, those of us who lived through the kennedy presidency, now prepared to pass the torch again to a new generation of americans, knowing that the fate of our country and the rights we hold so dear will lie in your hands. and considering our future, i'm reminded of the famous words president kennedy used in his inaugural address, he not only
challenged us to ask what we can do for our country, he also observed that his election signified that the torch had been passed and i quote "to a new generation of americans who are unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed and to which we are committed today at home and around the world." it's now my great honor to introduce the man who will officially open our proceedings, the 41st president of the united states, george herbert walker bush. >> let me start by saluting our friends at the john f. kennedy presidential library and museum for launching their jfk 50 justice for all program. i'm particularly happy to single out carolyn kennedy and todd putnam as well as bringham mccup
offon and jay zimmer for making this program a reality. your topic strikes a real chord with me, as a young congressman from texas, i well remember the open housing vote back in 1968. i voted with those who were fighting to give americans of all races and creeds the chance to buy a good home and a good neighborhood. later, as president, we got the americans with disabilities act passed, to make sure that tens of millions with disabilities had fuller access to the american dream. of course, these two instances are only part of a broader struggle for civil rights here at this forum and at other programs, you can learn how and why so many americans across this great land came together for a noble cause, basic human dignity, equal opportunity under the law, recognizing our diverseity as a strength and a blessing. these are the values that define more than a movement, but a
nation realizing its destiny, our potential for greatness. barbara joins me in sending our best wishes for an informative and enjoyable event. [ applause ] >> so good afternoon, everyone, and thank you all so much for coming on behalf of my colleague, tom mcnaught, executive director of the kennedy library foundation i want to especially thank the archivists of the united states for being here and opening our proceedings. i also want to thank the law firm of bingham mccutcheon, underwriters of jfk 50, justice for all, and they've helped to sponsor today's conference. i'd also like to thank wbur, and "the boston globe." we could have an hour and a half or whole conference on franklin
roosevelt and civil rights and you'll see from your schedule that we only have about 20 minutes to do that, and i was suggesting to elita, who is an expert on franklin and eleanor roosevelt that their courtship lasted about two years and trying to cover this topic in 20 minutes is a bit like the modern phenomenon of speed dating, so we'll do our best to cover this topic. fortunately elita is not only a wonderful storyteller but a very fast talker, so alita, there's a debate among historians about franklin roosevelt and civil rights and when he came, became president he faced a country that was not only facing depression but was a segregated nation and like president kennedy and others, he faced conservative leaders in congress and within his own party and so as he was trying to put forth legislation, if he moved too quickly on integration in terms of some of that legislation,
that could have held back some of his other legislative accomplishments so give us the quick gloss of franklin roosevelt and civil rights. >> this is like doing my whole life in 15 seconds, just so you know. [ laughter ] well, i think first of all, we have to remember that the democratic party was profoundly southern and a western party so when roos veld comes into office he has not yet realigned the party to become the party that we all know today, but so it's quite interesting to me that some of the things that immediately happen with the staff that he picks, i mean, you immediately integrate and i use that word deliberately, you abolish segregation in federal cafeteria and the interior department and in other places, when in fact, d.c. is a profoundly segregated city, and was segregated by a democrat, woodrow wilson. so his appointments i think are quite interesting in that way.
you've got harold ickies, harry hopkins, aubrey williams and mary mcleod bethune. i want to say they were the twin towers of the pre-war civil rights movement. so there's a huge risk taking mind-set there. now, does that mean that it goes as far as we want? no. but i have been all over the map on this and i have come to a very eleanor-like conclusion. and that is you can look at a glass and you can see it half empty or you can see the water keep increasing, and what i think both roosevelts did was really introduce to america the concept that the federal government was not just for the forgotten man or for the forgotten woman, but as fdr said, when he spoke at howard, not only will there be no forgotten men, there will be no forgotten races.
so we have policies. we have two executive orders that fdr issues, one for the wpa, the works progress administration, that outlaws segregation in wpa hiring practices and then you have the fair employment practices commission doing that for the defense industry. now, do they work? no. do they help some people? yes. is there a long way that we have to go? yes. do we still have to do it now? yes. but when you look at this, i want you to remember that they were the first executive orders passed or any type of federal legislation since reconstruction, which i think says a lot. also, if you look at the risks that they took in terms of setting up the civil rights division of the justice department and although i'm supposed to talk about fdr and my colleagues at the project will expect me and pardon me as will the fdr library people to
say you cannot talk about fdr and race without talking about eleanor. eleanor traveled without secret service protection. there were assassination attempts on her life, not threats, attempts as first lady. the ku klux klan places the largest bounty in history on her head. they firebomb trees next to revolutionary era churches that she spoke in, in north carolina, in 1937, 1938, when she's talking about the poll tax, she joined polly murray in chairing the national commission to abolish the poll tax, and so there were profound risks that were taken, and if i may sort of go oad friendly with great troepts my colleagues, for once, just for once, please, as a favor to me, when you write about fdr and you write about race, will you, please, say that people were trying to kill his wife and that she could have shut up if he said to her on
this she will not cross me, like he did in internment. there's a huge difference here, and the untold story of the roosevelts and race, which if i could ever go back and be a fly on a wall and engage in the what if school of history moment would be the conversations that they had one on one about the risk that she was taking to aggressively change her position from being truly separate but equal, but moving toward integration, and so by the time that garner murdell and ralph bunch do their landmark study, the american dilemma, ralph bunch will say of all the people that i have interviewed in the united states, the person on whose sincerity i have no doubt is eleanor roosevelt. now, when you get to the war, which i guess we'll talk about, you'll really see the impact there, but, and the other thing
about we all want anti-lynching passed. i grew up in memphis. i'm not that chunky white child on the back of the wall in 1968, when dr. king was giving the mountaintop speech. i was two blocks away when he was assassinated at the lorraine motel. it changed my life. nobody on the planet wants fdr to engage in the anti-lynching legislation more than i do, but let's look at 1934 and let's see what dubois says when fdr calls lynching murder. he's the first president in the history of the united states calls it murder der and w.e w.e. dubois editorializes on the front page of "the crisis." fdr does not support the legislation in '35, '36, '37 or '38 when it comes up, by 1938, eleanor roosevelt spends seven days sitting in the gallery of the united states senate and she's surrounded by civil rights
leaders, all people of color. when they ask her what eleanor is doing, she says, "i am bearing witness," and that to me is a powerful, powerful statement. so you have to look at, granted there was no legislation passed, but there were internal policies changed. there was eleanor's outspokenness. there was her literally putting her life on the line for this, and there were executive orders written, and the justice department created. so i look at his record as a huge step forward to help jump-start where we want to be. is that good in three minutes? [ laughter ] i've never done it this fast. ever. [ applause ] >> so let's move to another small topic. [ laughter ] the desegregation of the armed forces, we'll have a panel that's going to talk about president truman, but where did fdr stand, and i think it would be of interest to people that,
you know, have seen the recent movie on the tuskegee airman. did he know those stories? his main accident was to win the war but how did he face this issue? >> well, fdr always thought that the primary responsibility was to win the war. there was never any doubt in his mind about doing that. fdr did instruct the war department to, in fact, allow to remove the barriers placed in front of african-americans who wanted to enlist and serve. at this point 9% of the population was african-american. less than 1% were allowed to serve in the united states military. for those of you suspect to propaganda and people say only 1% of african-americans served in the draft. there were laws that prevented people from enlisting. and so fdr worked with the war department who was profoundly opposed to this this to, in
fact, remove barriers. it didn't work that much. it went from 1% to 5% as opposed to 9%. if you go back again the guy was last full. they meet with walter wright and leaders for the urban league. to discuss this the same day that the pac is announced. that means at the same time he's learning that germany, japan and russia all have signed a pack against us. and when randolph and company come, they come in a meeting eleanor has facilitatfacilitate. they have a list of seven demands. of the demands, four are met.
the steps that fdr does take, i think are not just incremental, but are a slap in the face. he has rave reviews. the republicans have posed to be a bipartisan cabinet. and they are opposed to any activity that will advance negros through the reigns. simpson says leadership is not embedded in the negro race. he's secretary of war. the secretary of the navy says he will revine if this happens. he brings the dean of the law school to be simpson's aide. he appoints a colnel to advise
the selective service. and he gives simpson, the first african-american general to, in fact, ride on them. the big obstacle is george marshall. and fdr doesn't push hard. but marshall is the one that comes down and says not on my watch. we got to win the war. eleanor works to have african-american women who wants become nurses do this. eleanor goes to the city the night after the riot to calm things down. she insists the training pools be integrated.
so they can have the same training as the white counter parts. probably the case in history where the government imprisons people based on race and ethnicity. >> i wouldn't say it's the first time. i would say it's a major time. there's no doubt in my mind that fdr considered the emergency of wartime overroad civil protections. there's just no doubt in my mind about this. this was a decision greatly opposed in the administration. eleanor, for one, strongly opposed it. as did the attorney general. as did the military command in hawaii.
as did justice douglas, who really violated legal protocol when he met with eleanor to advise her about the president. but i think the best book on this is a shoutout to my friend greg robinson who's book is the best study of this. and i think greg is absolutely right, that fdr did not think it through in the sense of thinking there would be long-range questions of patriotism or, you know, suspicion of people or really understand the theft of property that went on. and so when there is a riot in the manson r. camps in july of -- i mean in the summer of 1943, he sends eleanor out to meet with them. and i know that they had numerous conversations on this. not a shred of paper on it, give you my word on it i've looked for it since the day i was born. it's not there. i strongly suspect there were countless conversations about
this. eleanor wanted to adopt japanese american families to get them out of camps, she wrote countless letters attesting to people's patriotism. assimilated their entry into the war. so i would stake my mortgage and my soul on the fact that there were conversations about this that we'll never be privy too. >> let's end with you giving us the back story to the iconic concert that marianne anderson gave at the lincoln memorial. >> i lovell nor roosevelt, i love franklin roosevelt. their picture is in every room of my heart. we have to give harold dickey a shoutout. we need to give both roosevelts credit for is eleanor's understanding of how to use her newspaper column, my day, to
turn this concert in from a local, i.e., regional washington, d.c. slap in the face, to turn it into a national civil rights event. when eleanor resigned in 1939, that column goes on the front page of 483 newspapers, and marianne anderson stays on the front page of those newspapers for seven weeks. eleanor goes to the radio programs to say, you -- basic until politely eleanor language, which i will never in my life be accused of having, if you want me on the radio, you need to carry this. and so it's eleanor's pressure on the radio stations that make it the first live coast-to-coast
nationally broadcast radio event in the history of radio. she also works with walter white to schedule the concert at 4:00 in the afternoon, so churches around the country. african-american churches in particular, on easter sunday can have picnics and suggests to walter white that perhaps they can make arrangements for those elections that are capped to be donated to the naacp and the collections that are raised that day are the second largest donation in the history of the naacp, only surpassed by duke ellington's national concert tour when he gave the proceeds of that to the naacp. she also had -- before the -- the debacle that was -- the insult to marianne anderson. eleanor invited her to the white house, she had stayed in the
white house. eleanor had talked about her voice in the column and said singing, hearing marianne anderson singing is like sitting in the lap of god. and after the concert, eleanor went july 4, 1939 to richmond, the capital of the confederacy, where she give marianne anderson the spring arm medal and gives a speech on -- in non confrontational terms about the horror that unequal education inflicts on the united states. so in many ways to me, the back story of marianne anderson is how this extraordinary woman got the courage to come up and shift from being an artist to a symbol which she knew absolutely she was going to become, she was terrified of doing it, i talked with her before she died. and the courage s